It’s been a little over a year since Toronto’s Weaves released their debut LP on Buzz Records, rapidly becoming a household name in the Canadian independent music landscape. They have been quick to garner international praise for their brand of unconventional guitar pop with not-so-subtle hints of improvisation. The self-titled effort was largely, considered a great success by music publications far and wide. Their album also scored them a short list nomination for the Polaris Music Prize this year, which they performed at a few weeks back after a year of relentless touring. Let’s just say that this is one band you can’t miss seeing live.
Weaves isn’t kicking back just yet. They have just released their second LP called Wide Open, and are out to prove that there is no obstacle too big for them to scale. Their answer to the challenge of following up a hugely successful debut is to keep creating, and continue to push boundaries wherever possible.Wide Open bounces from calm to chaotic, and pulls listeners in every direction. Early listens from publications like Stereogum indicate that Wide Open will surpass expectations, and even critically out-do their debut. I chatted with founding member of Weaves, Morgan Waters, about their success, their approach to following up their first album, and new steps they’ve taken as a band.
Weaves seems to tread a line between people’s comfort zones. Is keeping listeners on their toes something that comes naturally to the band?
I think with any art you don’t want to be boring. And with us it’s always a mix, we don’t really plan anything out. It’s about showing all the influences crashing up against each other. We want to surprise the listeners, and surprise ourselves. The mix of the artistic and the pop gets thrown into the blender where there’s no genres or anything like that. It’s all fodder for something new.
In what ways did the road and your experiences after the debut release influence songwriting on the new LP Wide Open?
Jasmyn starts everything and it all seems to come from her initial spark. She doesn’t really write anything down, she kind of ruminates about things for a while without telling any of us. It seems to come out of her when she goes to the rehearsal space by herself, recording, looping, figuring things out, and from there it all comes out pretty fast. When she’s in that mode, it’s a quick and fertile ‘brain’ thing going on with her. Then we hear the demos she comes up with and we work on it from there, but within 20 minutes of writing a song the lyrics are all usually there and never change.
You and Jasmyn have an obvious chemistry together in the band. In what ways do you compliment each other as artists?
I think Jasmyn is more impulsive and emotional, and I’m more of an editor. I help present her initial ideas in a way that elevates them. That mix of impulsiveness and my revising or editorial skills kind of complete each other. She loses interest quickly and I never stop obsessing, so we temper each other in that way.
A lot of the time I’m sort of translating her ideas, where I’ll sit there and say what I think will work for whichever project we’re focusing on. I’m very happy to work that way and cycling through the ideas, I have an endless amount of patience. I’ll work hard to try to find the “thing” that clicks for both of us.
Many of us were really excited to see that a collaboration with Tanya Tagaq was included on Wide Open, and the Polaris gala performance of Scream was incredible. How did the partnership come to fruition?
We met Tanya at Iceland Airwaves, on the airplane ride over there. Spencer and Zack kind of knew a few of her band members, and we sort of hit it off the whole weekend. We went to her show, and ever since then we always sort of thought that it would be really great to work with her on something since she takes a very improvisational approach to her music as well, which we’re into. It’s all about capturing a moment, and “Scream” seemed like the perfect song to collaborate with her on.
There is a distinct visual element to Weaves, in things like music videos and album art. What role does visual art and aesthetic play for the band?
It’s a major consideration, but it’s also something that just happens. Similar to our music, we like to leave our videos kind of open so that we can improvise on the day-of. On “Scream” we had a white room studio and a good DP (Director of Photography), so Jasmyn and Tanya were able to move around the space freely. It’s personal expression first, and then concept or theoretical parts are secondary. It’s really about freedom of expression, and that factors into our videos. We shoot stuff and see what happens.
Weaves was shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize this past year, and there were a lot of incredible artists in the running. What do you think Lido Pimienta’s recent win means for Canadian music?
The best part was that we were given the opportunity to perform live, since playing on stage is where I think we can really stand out. So performing on stage with people like Feist and Lido was a way for us to really show what we’re all about. To us, that was much more important that any sort of competition or win in our books. The concept of “winning” in art is weird. So just the fact that we got to play, and play a new song “Scream” with Tanya was the biggest part for us, really exciting.
I think with Lido’s win, I don’t know if it shows what direction Canadian music is going… I’m not really sure how the voting works and all that. It’s so great that a DIY artist like her can win something like that, and I think that will become the norm as labels keep shutting down and people keep doing things themselves. There are no major label budgets and funding isn’t always there, so artists need to be able to do it themselves. Lido winning shows that you don’t need all that other crap, it’s about the music. It’s about what you have to say. You don’t really need teams if you have the work ethic.
Members of the Ottawa & Gatineau band—particularly drummer Phil Castiglione—teased fans with the idea of a vinyl pressing of the live EP, but those hopes were dashed when guitarist & ukulele player Garett Barr humourously stated on the live recording from Steamfest!!! that they were from Niagara Falls, ON. Entertaining but erroneous, so no wax…
Their debut LP, Years, might still be pressed, however. It’s a tight album, with a few flourishes that prudes would call “mistakes”. The combined efforts of the six teammates overlap like a sonic sandwich, particularly the mandolin of Francis-Julien Thibaudeau contrasting beautifully well with Greg Fitzpatrick’s banjo. The album has been streaming all week for their release show at TARG. Be careful! If you play it once you will play it again. If the eight songs together weren’t good enough, especially after the last song “Destination”, sung primarily by Sarah Fitzpatrick on bass:
You’ve made it clear that I don’t belong
But I’m staying here just to prove you wrong.
You don’t have to agree, I don’t care either way
You don’t have to help me just don’t get in my way, no
You don’t have to help me just don’t get in my way!
The steamy event is $7 and features opening acts the aptly described spooky surfy garage of Bonnie Doon & the violently honest folk of Cory Levesque. It will be a sure-as-shit hootenanny!
May 9th Danielle Allard celebrated the release of her newest album Chameleon to a packed crowd inside The Bourbon Room. The evening was amazingly entertaining with balloon-animal makers, photo booths, and comedians. The songstress was joined by her band of merry musicians featured on the album, along with Ashley Newall on bongos. The large backdrop canvas painted by Allard for her album cover was cut up afterwards and offered on smaller 8×11 boards along with “I’m With The Band” t-shirts and Chameleon albums for swag. The album was released for purchase May 12th following the release, and can be purchased locally at Compact Music or online.
Allard’s successful night was hard-earned making the album. Her initial success came from the mind-blowing support she received during Chameleon’s crowdfunding campaign, which overshot its mark and closed at 132% of her goal. This came in the wake of the original studio set to record the album pulling out in the 11th hour, and later the original venue for her album release bowing out due to being under construction. Allard worked full-time and had to navigate the schedules of the five other guest musicians on the album, all with their own work and personal schedules during the recording process as well. Gallery Recording Studio soon became her home, with Dean Watson producing the album and providing multi-instrumentalist back-up. She was also accompanied by guitarist Justin Duhaime and Sebastian Romanutti on keys along with trumpet player Ed Lister and drummer Jamie Holmes, the latter of both better known for being in the Chocolate Hot Pockets.
Allard’s first single off the album is titled “Crown” and is a slow, melodic ballad that has long soulful notes from the trumpet and keys accompanying her voice, and is the first of Chameleon’s songs to have a music video. The album is a rollercoaster of emotions, from pop happiness to deep reflective sadness. The touching and soulful “Shipwreck” will have you reaching for the tissues, while the happy, rhythmic tune of “Little Demons” will get stuck in your head and immediately become your go-to song for rough days.
Allard is passionately involved in the Ottawa community, incorporating it wherever she can in her music.
“Supporting local arts and business has always been important to me. I am inspired by the passion in our city,” Allard said. Artist Marcus Lamoureux of Skullcap Promotions was auctioning off one of his unique steam-punk guitars at the album release, and both her guitar and ukulele were crafted by local luthier Patrick Hawley. Allard is styled by local designer Kristie Lance for all of her shows and appearances, and held residency last summer and fall at Lowertown Brewery. Starting this June, Allard takes up residency at Live! on Elgin every Thursday night with an every-changing variety of local guest musicians. She has also been accepted as one of the #Ottmusik musicians featured on the City of Ottawa’s hold-line during its second round, coming in January 2016.
Catch up with Danielle on Facebook, Twitter and her website. Make friends with her at her upcoming shows, she’s always happy for more. Physical copies of the Chameleon can be purchased through CD Baby or Compact Music stores. Chameleon is also available online through iTunes, Spotify, iHeartRadio and Google Music.
The second instalment of Ottawa Implosion Weekend hit Ottawa hard on Friday, Feb. 13, putting Valentine’s Day to shame by stacking two huge shows at different venues on one of the coldest weekends of the year.
Ottawa Implosion is the sister fest of Ottawa Explosion, featuring “the best contemporary underground post-punk, psych, and dark disco from North America and Europe.” It’s a pretty rad addition to the music scene, as last year the organizers brought in bands such as Iceage, Merchandise, Lower, and Father Murphy from all corners of the earth. This time around, Implosion celebrates Ottawa label Bruised Tongue‘s anniversary by presenting acts like Boyhood, Big Dick, Ultrathin, as well as the final Pregnancy Scares show ever on Sunday.
I tried to make it out to the Boyhood show at Gabba Hey earlier in the night, but it sold out really quickly because it was an all-ages event. Given the time constraints and the real danger of hypothermia, I decided to head directly to House of Targ where Big Dick was setting the stage to release their second full-length LP Disappointment. Being on Dirt Cult Recs, they had a hefty supply of vinyl available and even pressed some really good-looking limited blue LPs. I pretty much snatched one of those up as soon as I walked in.
The Famines opening the night (Photo: Eric Scharf)
Opening the night was garage/noise rock duo The Famines out of Montreal. Their website says that they were once described as “berzerker barrage,” and although that might seem pretty cryptic, I think it accurately portrays their style and sound. They opened with their relatively restrained track “TWA Flight 553” which in a way built up the anticipation for the rest of the set.
Most of their songs ran about two minutes long, so they fit in quite a few. I am always astonished by two-piece acts that exude so much energy and emotion from the stage. The chaotic nature of their music came through loud and clear, with lo-fi guitar riffs by Raymond E. Biesinger and intricate, booming, and at times obscure percussion by Drew Demers. The crowd seemed entranced and focused, but at times confused and unsure about how to actually respond to the music.
This didn’t stop The Famines from tearing through their set with ferocity, playing a lot of newer songs that have been written since the release of their 2008-2011 Collected Singles. This included a songs such as “Stay Home Club”, which they had never played before the TARG show and will appear on the A-side of the Psychic Handshake single coming out this April, and “Too Cool”, which will be released on vinyl LP through Mammoth Cave later this fall. They ended their impressive set with the track “Who Wants Disarmament?”, which apparently they have only played three times and will also appear on Psychic Handshake. Word is that they have been confirmed to play Ottawa Explosion this year, so be sure to check these guys out when they’re back in town (and when it’s not deathly cold out and we can party outside).
Next up was the Ottawa-based bass n’ drum punk band Big Dick. The much-anticipated release of their sophomore LP was delayed because of some vinyl pressing issues with shortages, but they had the records ready to go on this night. I have to say, hearing Disappointment on vinyl for the first time today made me appreciate what these two guys are doing even more. It’s in your face, and hardly lets you come up for a breath of fresh air throughout. I should also mention that the LP was recorded at the Meat Locker by the one and only Paul ‘Yogi’ Granger, co-owner of House of TARG and all-around legend.
Johnny O and Dave Secretary immediately dove into their set with the new tracks “Sick” and “Up a Step,” Dave blasting away at the drums and Johnny ripping on his bass. It wasn’t long before they played the leading single “Let Down” from the new album, drawing the attention of the crowd and showing us all how solid a two-piece band with chemistry can be. The sound wasn’t the best unfortunately, as Dave’s kick drum was being drowned out by Johnny’s bass – particularly in songs with really heavy and over-driven bass parts. It’s a tough room to play for this reason sometimes, and for a band like Big Dick one really needs to hear all the parts in order to feel the full force of their music. I’m not a sound engineer so that’s about all I can say on that, and it was no fault of the band. Hell, I might have just been standing in the wrong spot.
Big Dick LP release (Photo: Eric Scharf)
Big Dick impressed nonetheless, and kept the onslaught coming throughout the set. They played a few older songs too, including “Medic” and “Colours” off their 2013 self-titled release. The crowd loved hearing these well-known tracks, and were jumping around in front of the stage and getting into it. The only disappointment for me was that they didn’t play my favourite song off the new album, “God’s Teeth.” But they had plenty of others that really stood out, including one of my other favourites from Disappointment called “Mariner.” There’s no doubt that this record will be a strong contender for our top albums of 2015.
Their set was executed with precision and contained enough force to blow almost anyone’s eardrums. That’s what makes Big Dick such a good band – their songs don’t just rely on the loudness to drown out any mistakes. They nail every beat, every riff, and their skills are on full display at every show they play. You can’t fake it with just two people on stage, and Johnny and Dave made sure we all knew why they are Ottawa music veterans by the end of the set.
Show poster (by Mike Laderoute)
Ottawa Implosion, Vol. 2 (poster by Julia Dickens)
Big Dick (illustration by Ainslie Coghill and Mike Laderoute)
Big Dick “Disappointment” vinyl LP, in black and lim. ed. blue.